Should We Treat Teenagers Differently?

Today as part of our Thursday series we will be looking at the first question in Section Three: The Teenager. This is an excerpt from Owen Connolly’s reference book for fathers “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”. The question that Owen tackles here is whether parents should begin to treat their children differently when they become teenagers. Owen has some interesting suggestions on how parents can prepare for this transition time. If you are only joining us now on this Thursday series, please feel free to to start with the introduction post here or click on the Category on the right to see all the relevant posts so far.


When our children enter their teens and are finally able to look out for themselves, it is very important that we mark that coming-of-age in their lives. One of the things that I have huge issues with in our society is that we don’t have a coming-of-age ceremony that allows men and women to become grown up – they often remain in the prince and princess state and never really become kings and queens. They never get this new announcement that says, “Blessed are you; you’re the new man or woman on the block,” unlike what you might find with the young males and females in the Jewish culture.

Young Jewish males, at 12 years of age, have a Bar Mitzvah in which they go through a ritualistic coming-of-age that allows them to participate with the men. They are now free to leave their mums and join together with men where they are LISTENED to. The principle behind that, of course, is that they have something to say and that the men want to hear it. And with a Bat Mitzvah, which is the same thing for the females, young Jewish woman have the opportunity to have a closer relationship with the women and to engage in womanly work and learn womanly ways. There needs to be some ritualistic coming-of-age, so my advice to fathers is to make one up in your own household. When young men come into puberty and have their first wet dream, I often suggest that their fathers, if they have a close enough relationship with their sons, should explain that they are now producing sperm so they are in a position to be seen as “coming-of-age.” They are changing – there is an elongation of their physical self and they are becoming more man-like. To mark that, there should be a celebration, and, similarly, there should also be a celebration when a young girl has her first period.

This ritualistic coming-of-age should occur at 13 or so, so that we begin preparing them for 16-17 years of age when they will be in a position to leave mum and dad emotionally and take responsibility for themselves, having been equipped by mum and dad to do so. The loving and comforting of the father and the mother, which was the parents’ responsibility up to that point, is an investment that the young adult must take and use for themselves as they move into the future. They must realise that this investment of love from their parents is an essential building block that they will use as they go out to enjoy the world in a healthy way.

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